As hot summer days and nights come into view, nothing quenches one's thirst like a good, cold beer. Beer is still the golden nectar most enjoy especially in the summer but also year long. At one time, Youngstown had the most famous and longest-operating brewery in this area. It was called Renner Brewing Company and was founded in 1865 by Philip Schuh and John Bayer, who were German immigrants.
The story goes something like this: Bayer sold his share to Schuh. Matthias Seeger assumed brewing operations in 1869, assisted by Daniel Perkins. At this time it was known as City Brewery. The plant was located on Pike Street, on a hillside that faced the railroad tracks and the Mahoning River. Water was not taken from the river as many people thought, but from onsite artesian wells. Many years later, though, they used water from the Meander Reservoir.
It seems that by the early 1870s, the brewery was producing 1,500 barrels annually. By 1879, Seeger had doubled those numbers. Seeger died in 1880, and Christian Seeger assumed his father's duties. But the brewery was purchased again by John Bayer in 1881. The property was then sold to The Smith Brewery and it sat idle until 1885, when it was purchased by George Jacob Renner Jr.
Renner was born in 1856 in Cincinnati, where he later received a lot of training in the brewing industry. Along with his father, he operated several breweries. He had heard of the unused brewery in Youngstown and immediately moved here to become the sole owner of his own brewery. After the old brewery was remodeled, it soon developed into quite a thriving enterprise. There are many fascinating stories about the 6-foot-3 giant (Renner) who was a man of sport and even installed a billiard room and a gymnasium within the brewery.
In January of 1889, a fire and explosion erupted within the brewery and destroyed everything. George Richter, the plant engineer, was killed and three others injured, all because of an exploding boiler. The value of the brewery at that time was $75,000, and the insurance covered only about one-fourth of the damage. However, Renner was able to secure loans, and rebuilding started immediately. By the fall of 1890, the new brewery was open for business. This new plant had an annual capacity of 18,000 barrels.
Further expansion took place as a new bottling house was built in 1895 and enlarged in 1913. Even the brewery's stables held as many as 52 horses for pulling delivery wagons. The entire operation was incorporated in 1914 as The Renner Brewing Company with capital stock of $200,000. Grossvater Beer and Eagle Brew were the company's most popular brews. There were also Renner Breweries in Akron and Mansfield.
Along came the sadness of Prohibition in 1919, and the brewery had to convert to non-alcoholic beer, ice and soft drinks. Ah, yes! The repeal of Prohibition in April 1933 put a head back in the company as refurbishing began immediately. Given a new life, the brewery had a great impact on our local economy. It brought 200 unemployed men back into the ranks of the employed to bring the plant up to date. It also brought their annual capacity to 100,000 barrels. This number increased again to 175,000 barrels
Many improvements began to take place in the brewing process, including making the brews lighter, introducing pilsner-type beers and, of course, putting the beer into cans. This, even today, is the most prolific form of beer container.
George Renner passed away in 1935, and son Emil became chairman of the board for the remainder of Renner's history. By the 1940s, their sales reached almost $3 million, but then that number started to decline somewhat. With the introduction of Golden Amber in 1952, the company seemed to rebound along with the name brands of Old German, Old Oxford Ale and King's Brew.
In the 1950s, competition from national brews started cutting into sales. Renner Brewery found it more and more difficult to compete with the national giants of the industry. There seemed to be many downslides within the company as they entered the 1960s. Brewing operations were finally shut down in 1962. The remaining brands were sold to the Old Crown Brewing Company in Fort Wayne, Ind., and were distributed in eastern Ohio until they closed in 1973. The finale of this fine old brewery took place on Oct. 14, 1978, when much of it was burned during a fire.